24 February 2017

Metro Manila through the Eyes of Local Artists in the No Chaos, No Party Artbook

No Chaos, No Party is not your ordinary artbook.

It should be obvious at first glance – the reflective, kitschy foil cover; the brightly-colored bookmarks; the obvious energy that inundates each page. It’s the kind of item that sends any collector to their knees, much akin to an ultra-rare trading card or specie of butterfly.

No, this artbook is in a league of its own. One might even be tempted to call it otherwise – you won’t find that clear-cut, academic look that permeates a majority of them. Nor will you find that minimalistic, Kinfolkian way of presenting images. No, what you’ll find inside is an explosion of creativity, a pastiche of aesthetic that differs from chapter to chapter, from artist to artist. The inside front and back spreads pounce on you with pop-ups of the title. No two sections are ever the same, and you get this nifty map insert detailing the places and prizes of the local art scene, beckoning you to take a look at it.

This is not coincidental. The artbook, after all, takes Metro Manila as its primary subject matter – weaving in narratives and perspectives from 28 artists who have taken the area as their muse. It’s an interesting exercise in blending the city and its dwellers, the art and the artist; pushing the boundaries of medium in order to get its message across. This is the nature of art: to be true to experience, no matter what that experience might be.

Behind all of this is the dynamic duo of Valeria Cavestany and Eva McGovern-Basa, who are no strangers to the art world. Both, however, have taken to it on different fields: Valeria, the book’s mastermind and Editor-in-Chief, is herself both an artist and a patron of the arts. Taking to the brush as her medium, she has been exhibiting work since the 90’s alongside other artists and artist collectives, such as the Bastards of Misrepresentation. On the other hand, Eva – the book’s Managing Editor – has worked with museums and galleries both here and abroad, notably the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, UK. Dealing mostly with knowledge production and content creation, she takes a more practical approach to art, evident in her curatorial and writing ventures.

Valeria Cavestany (Photo by Wawi Navarroza) and Eva McGovern-Basa

We were quite fortunate to chat a bit more about the book with Eva. Valeria, unfortunately, was out of the country at the time.

Can you give us an introduction to the concept of No Chaos, No Party?

The design was a very important aspect of the book. We really looked very carefully for the designers, and we got some advice from people at GRID Magazine, people who would really understand what we were trying to do.

Eventually, [we] decided to work with Rex Advincula and Joyce Tai from Inksurge, because their practice, attitudes, and relationships to design, Metro Manila, risk-taking, and experimentation felt very complementary to what we were trying to do. We really allowed them the freedom to respond to each of the artists’ [needs].

Apart from re-selecting certain images and removing a few elements, the design is pretty much [the artists’] vision, [which were] based upon lots of conversations with me. [The artists] are really equal collaborators in this book.

The book came about through the vision of Valeria Cavestany, who is an artist, patron, and very, very passionate about promoting Philippine art. She and I have worked together for a number of years for various things, and she felt that it was really important to produce an exciting, dynamic book on contemporary Filipino art [which] also [tried] to push the book format, and have a certain “wow” factor.

I think that is the beauty of working with an artist as your patron, because she’s so visual, so creative. She really wanted the book to have that visual experience. Oftentimes, you look more at the images rather than the writing – the writing is something you could return to when you have the time, but the images are something you immediately respond to. So for [Valeria], it was very important to be visual, to be playful, so that’s why we got our very colorful bookmarks [and other creative executions].

We have this photo essay of alternative [art] spaces in the 90's, and it’s kind of supposed to feel like a yearbook collage, or like a scrapbook. We worked with Ringo Bunoan [for this], who is an artist and an archivist of the Roberto Chabet archive.

[We also] decided that even though it’s impossible to map the city, if the book is about Metro Manila and the art world, we needed to create some type of map. So the designers came up with this sort of infographic –  a mapping of the city which shows where the volume of galleries are, and we’ve done a type of incomplete list of spaces, galleries, museums, and art prizes, just to give a very loose overview of the city.

Are you guys also planning to produce other books after this?

I suppose this book is an experiment really, to see how people respond to it, whether there’s need for this type of book – and subsequently, more books – or whether people are not [responsive]. So at the end of the day, we need to weigh out the costs involved, and we need to recuperate some of those in order to be able to do more projects.

You mentioned previously that you had to consult with a lot of artists and designers for the book. How was it like behind the scenes? How did you guys bring it together?

Basically, we started out with this very excited and enthusiastic dream of doing a book on Metro Manila, and the artists of Metro Manila. We had a series of development meetings with myself, Valeria, and our project manager to figure out the content of the book. We knew we wanted to do artist interviews, so we came up with a series of questions around a series of topics, including personal history, the history of their practice, themes involved in their practice, interesting anecdotes from their career, their relationship to their mentors [and] to other artists, if they were involved in any type of alternative space, and their hopes and dreams for the city and the art world.

And we wanted to figure out [what else] would be in the book – but in the end, it became clear that the artists would form the bulk of the book. Four of the artists [involved in the project] have their own spaces associated with them, so we felt that it tied in nicely to have a photo essay on a particular period of time [that revolved around artist-run spaces].

After lots of different ideas, [we] decided them to [primarily] be interviews. We made a wish list of all the artists that we thought would fit the brief of the book: that all the artists had to be inspired indirectly or directly by the city of Metro Manila. Whether through a certain playful, anarchic, chaotic style; a very observational style where they would just photograph or paint the urban environment; or whether they had a type of personal attitude that reflected people who live in Manila. For example, the reason we put [Romeo Lee] on the cover was that we wanted to put an artist on the cover… and he really reflects the spirit of the book – free-spirited, playful, energetic, punkish – being the godfather of the punk scene.

So once we decided on who the artists were [and once] the artists agreed to participate, we scheduled all interviews. The interviews themselves took about eight months, because we went to all the studios, sat down with them, and recorded a conversation that was about two, three, to four hours long. That audio was [then] transcribed, and I, along with my project manager, edited the text from like 14,000 words to 1,500. So all the interviews are roughly 700-3,000 words long, depending on how much the artist had to say. (laughs)

And then we collated all the visual materials, which included images of their artwork. MM then had to schedule a photoshoot where she would go to the studio, photograph [the artist] portraits [and] studios. If we had to re-photograph any art, we’d do it then as well. We also asked the artists to submit any supplementary materials – any sketches, or handwritten notes, or any ephemera that would give a more human glimpse into who they are. All this material was given to the designers, and the designers would create the designs for about 2-3 artists every couple of weeks. We went into this design-editing phase of working through the texts, proofreading, copy-editing, as well as polishing up the design, and so forth. Once we had the digital design done – which took quite a long time – we went into our pre-print development phase.

We worked with a local printer, but their operations are in Hong Kong and China. So the local printer was the one who developed with us the construction of the pop-up, we played with different effects for the cover, the material for the bookmark, that type of thing. And once we had the final mockup of the book, we went to print. And I suppose the challenges of something like this is just the sheer scale of the project. I mean, getting 28 artists to submit materials to meet your own deadlines – ‘cause they’re all busy, they’re all doing their own projects, some of them are traveling, some of them got artist residencies, some of them don’t pick up their phones, or emails – you know, they’re very busy. So that was a lot of chasing. (laughs) A lot of chasing!

And then, I suppose the production of the book was a very steep learning curve because – I mean, I’ve done books before, but never with a pop-up, the paper, you know, how the images respond to the paper, the bookmarks, and the map – all of this construction side of the book took a really long time to develop. And, you know, we all have other jobs. (laughs)

Our initial goal was to get the project done in a year. Then, it took about 2 and a half years to do.

Is this because of the production of the book itself?

Well, first of all, it’s coordinating when we can do the interviews, and getting all the content together. It’s just coordinating, you know, the images from the artists – like all of it, these are physical things collected from Romeo. So they were either photographed or scanned by the designer, and if we didn’t have what we needed we had to go back to the artists and get more images. If the images weren’t hi-res enough, we needed to get [a] different more print quality-based images. And we had to supplement questions, you know, if the interview felt a bit imbalanced then we had to do a little follow-up with the artist, and so forth. So all of the logistics of the content generation really took a huge amount of time. Once we had everything, it was just going through the process of execution. But yeah, it was really getting everything done.

All the artists review their pages. Everyone signed off on their page before we went to print. That was really important, because we wanted everyone to feel invested in the project so they had some ownership on how they were represented. Maria Jeona Zoleta, for example (flips to Jeona’s page), wanted a very specific design, and so she actually put [her page] together and gave [it] to us. And for her interview, she wanted it to have a very specific type of language.  So that process also took a lot of time, because it was very important to me that the artists were involved… We obviously had to make certain editorial decisions, but that was important to us.

Valeria’s in the book [too]. Her work is inspired by the kind of chaos, energy, the colors and textures of the city, and she has this interesting Spanish-Filipino heritage as well. You know, that sense of hybridity, it was important to us. A lot of artists we had were quite global, [having] done a lot of residences abroad, [living] in the States for a period of time – David Griggs is Australian, but he had chosen Manila as his home – so, all these different perspectives, inside and outside, local, global, international [were important to us]. [The book is] supposed to be very, very heterogenous. Making every page so unique was one of the challenges.

I’d have to ask though – for this artbook, why did you choose the chaos of Manila? Was this something important to you and Valeria? How did you guys decide to use this as your starting point?

Well, Valeria is loosely part of the Bastards of Misrepresentation – I don’t know if you’re familiar with them – it’s a loose collective of artists… the Bastards is all about [the] Manila vibe, and they have done numerous exhibitions both here and abroad, trying to share all [the] kitschy, crazy, chaotic, weird, and wonderful elements to Metro Manila that they extracted in their practices.

So we were wondering what type of book we would do. Would we do a book on the Bastards, would we do a book on the city? Then we thought it would be nice to kind of broaden out the book by selecting Metro Manila rather than a group of artists, and really take something that everyone says is chaotic, crazy, intense, contradictory, and  turn it on its head; use it [for] something positive and instead share how artists are inspired by it, how they intervene within the city, and what strategies they use not just to survive, but thrive.

Metro Manila [then] becomes some sort of important kind of inspiration rather than something people are just trying to cope with. It’s a rich and fertile ground for creativity – you know, [there are] all [these] exciting things that a lot of people don’t really know about [happening] in the scene! So many people, so many collectives that we could have included – I would love to do a follow-up book, because people think there’s not a lot going on [even if there is]. And there are so many events, so many collectives – so many blogs, so many other books that a lot of people just don’t know about, because the platforms to share these are quite small, or you know, have a small following and so forth.

So this book is really this love letter to the city. It is a tough environment, but somehow people make it work, and they innovate – our designers, our artists, even the bookstore. We’re only working with one bookstore – a local, independent, bookstore, and they only focus on Filipino art, creativity and culture. Even that is an important decision, ‘cause they’re amazing – people don’t necessarily know who they are.

So it’s about getting them out there as well?

Yeah! It’s really a community – in my head, it’s a very romantic community contribution to just allow them to speak for themselves. I mean, I’m not Filipino, this is not my personal context; but I’ve been living here for 4 years, my husband’s Filipino, [and] I’ve been coming in and out [of the country] for 7-8 years. I have this very deep relationship with Metro Manila that’s good and bad at the same time.

So this book is just trying to share that, and say that there’s all this stuff happening, and it’s interesting - [just] take 5 minutes to read about Manuel [Ocampo], or Gerry Tan, or Kaloy Sanchez, or Eisa Jocson. And we try to be very [well-rounded in] all areas, so we got painters, we’ve got installation – we’ve got this fantastic movement-based artist, [Eisa Jocson], [who’s] been doing this really interesting body of work about macho dancing in the Philippines. So what we’re trying to do is to give a voice – you know, [to] people who we think are interesting, exciting, and…

Who can best represent the city?

Yes! Exactly. And not just be completely negative, [or] completely positive, but present multi-layered thoughts and opinions on Metro Manila.

19 February 2017

Mahal Kong Pilipinas by Isabelle Landicho

It's not often that you see traditional Filipino fashion successfully made to look contemporary; a lot of times it ends up with the Barong Tagalog worn in a tacky way, or a renowned ethnic pattern used quite oddly and forced on a piece of clothing. I guess, it's not really that easy too. Because unlike other ethnic styles, ours is quite ornate, which in most cases, is more difficult to blend with other designs. But when done right, we believe that it could be pioneering.

"Mahal Kong Pilipinas" brings forth that conversation, of how traditional Filipino clothing can feel more modern. London-based Filipino Stylist and Creative Director Isabelle Landicho, produced this editorial to showcase traditional Filipino clothing to a contemporary audience. Being born in the Philippines and then moving to the UK at a young age, Landicho grew up with a mixed cultural background, which inspired her to advocate diversity in fashion. "Mahal Kong Pilipinas" totally displays that part of her, as she mixed traditional Filipino garments with contemporary British labels worn by Filipino models. On top of that, Landicho also frees the garments of its gender attachments by making a female model wear the Barong Tagalog, while a male model wears accessories traditionally worn by tribal women.

This editorial is made by this team:
Photography Genoveva Arteaga-Rynn @arteagarynn Styling and Creative Direction Isabelle Landicho @lethal_izzle Set Design Matthew Redman @matthew_redman Make up and Hair Rachel Sandler @rachelmsandler Models Ayen Feliciano @lilacayen Trey Alcantara @triqqahappy Gorgonia Landicho @gogogoyit

Vintage Barong from Wolf and Gypsy

Manobo and T’boili tribal beads

T’boili tribal beads

Gown by TGCN

Top and String Vest by Valinda Rai and Kalinga tribal beads

All accessories are provided by the Lahing Kayumanggi Dance Company

30 January 2017

Manila Traffic in a Different Perspective by Rainier Gonzales AKA RGVizuals

A city that's progressive but Manila is where you can experience one of the worst traffic problems in the world. We've heard everything about it, from the woes of commuters and city-travelers, to the famous traffic statement of current Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, "“A state of mind adds to the problem of traffic,” he stressed. “Let’s stop blaming traffic. If you’re late, that’s that." (Taken from Inquirer.net) With the ever-increasing purchasing power and the competitive automobile industry, it will be difficult to hope for a sudden development in the traffic scenario we have here in the city. However, as resilient as we are as Filipinos, we doubt that this will ever slow us down. So in line with this national issue, we worked with the 24-year old Rainier Gonzales more known as RGVizuals on Instagram to take photos of various places that exhibit Manila traffic to show us that there can be something amazing out of it, at least, visually. In addition, we also talked a bit with Rainier about photography and Manila's role to his vision.

Can you give us a background about yourself?

I’m an aspiring Graphic Artist and Photographer. I really love ART and I want to see myself in a few years to be a good in everything that an artist can do. But for now, I am working as an Office Assistant and at the same time running a small business, which is T-shirt printing and a clothing brand, “Dummy Bear/DUMB”. Photography is not yet my full time job but I shoot every single day. My camera is always with me everywhere I go. After office hours I choose to walk to different places just to take random photos.

What does photography mean to you?

Photography is my passion, it's like an addiction. I will feel that something would be missing in my life if ever I stop taking photos. I started taking pictures at a very young age with my parents' film camera. Then from there I progressed to using mobile phones and eventually a DSLR, which I first used through my cousin. The thing I like the most in photography is the process of being able to capture a moment that may never happen again.

Urban Photography is evident in your work, what made you pursue that?

I initially got inspired by urban photographers from different countries who I follow on Instagram. I was inspired and motivated to pursue it by merely seeing their work. Urban Photography for me represents a very different perspective, it takes many forms and aspects including architecture, landscape, portrait, street, object, design and fine-art photography. I think that’s the reason why I am interested in it so much, the variety and aesthetic is really enjoyable to work with.

How would you describe Manila to someone who has never been in the city?

The best way I can describe Manila is that it is a BUSY CITY. But even if it's a very busy city with a lot of restless people and filthy surroundings, there are plenty of things you will appreciate here, there are many things worth discovering.

What places did you include in this Manila Traffic series?

I shot these photos from EDSA Guadalupe, Quezon Ave., Commonwealth, and Katipunan Ave. I chose this locations because these are the places I could get the perspective I wanted for the series.

Lastly, how is Manila important to your photography?

Manila taught me that there’s beauty in the struggle.

25 January 2017

Ben&Ben talks to us about their beginnings, first EP, collaborations, and Music

December promises to be a month of coming together, but usually brings forth all business, bustle, and traffic in its onslaught. Events abound during the month, promising to either cross off items in your shopping list, put you in the festive mood, or help you share the love this season. Ben&Ben’s promise, however, was much simpler – they were launching their EP, and they wanted to bring their tribe together for a night of good music. It was a premise so simple, but it was much-needed refuge amidst the rush of the busy month.

Entering the scene in 2015, Ben&Ben (then known as The Benjamins) rose to popularity with heartfelt songs infused with catchy hooks and ethnic roots. They became finalists of Philpop 2016, taking home the 2nd Runner Up and Best Music Video prizes, only cementing their cred as singer-songwriters and increasing their following. The tickets to their EP launch alone were sold out prior to the event, which meant that their followers were only happy to celebrate the milestone with them.

Michelle Manese opened the show with a spoken word piece about finding home, a perfect usher for the twins’ first song for the night (and incidentally the first song off their EP) "Ride Home". The show proceeded briskly but with much heart and laughter, mainly from the twins’ banter with each other and their guests. Noel Cabangon took the stage and preemptively proclaimed that “I am not going to sing what you think I will sing,” but nevertheless silenced the crowd with awe for his music. Bullet Dumas also shared the stage with the twins, performing fan favorite "Put To Waste" that featured a sample of Ben & Ben’s "Dahilan". He finished his set not with what was requested but what was needed – a rendition of "Usisa", his song about Noli Me Tangere’s Sisa but also a commentary on all the craziness happening in our country. Johnoy Danao made the audience swoon with "Ikaw at Ako". Like Clara Benin’s Coming Home concert, transitions to the next performers were made more seamless with the performances of spoken word poets like Dani Nakpil and dancer Bea Lorenzo.

Throughout the night, Ben&Ben performed songs from their EP and more. "Susi" was performed after an observation from Paolo that it’s the song more popular with hell week sufferers, with comforting lyrics like “Balikan kung bakit ka nagsimula bago mo sabihing ayaw mo na.” The twins donned Santa hats for their performance of "Bibingka", and finished on a high with a performance of "Tinatangi", accompanied with Cooky Chua and Coeli San Luis. Of course, the crowd craved for more, and Ben&Ben chose a poignant finish with a performance of "Dahilan".

The EP launch was a coming together and a coming full circle for the twins, and it was evident that the audience and the guests performers were only happy to brave the December traffic for these twins.

Photos by Karen Dela Fuente

We got the chance to catch up with Ben&Ben after the show. Here’s our quick Discussion with Paolo and Miguel:

We’ve seen you grow from The Benjamins to Ben&Ben. Why the name change?

Paolo: Initially it started as a conflict with Spotify kasi may parehong (because there was a similar) The Benjamins. Nag-start siya dun, pero (it started there, but) eventually we decided to rally rebrand because after Philpop we decided to take the music bigger, come up with an EP and everything. We felt that changing our name – actually hindi naman siya sobrang malayo sa (it’s not far from) The Benjamins – it represents the next step in our music.

Miguel: It was a joint decision between the both us and Tinee Cruz who is part of a branding firm. She suggested kasi nag-try siyang (because she tried) i-search kami online, ang daming (there were a lot of) Benjamins, so she suggested why not modify it a bit that is still related to The Benjamins and it became Ben&Ben.

You’ve mentioned before that all your songs are collaborative between you two. Can you tell us about your working process?

Paolo: In a nutshell, it works for us kasi yung idea, nagsa-start sa akin, and then si Miguel yung nagtatapos nung song (the idea starts with me and then Miguel finishes the song). I would say collaborative siya kasi hindi matatapos yung song kung wala si Migs and vice versa (It’s collaborative because the songs won’t be finished without Miguel and vice versa). Yung process ng pagbuo ng song (with our process), I think his contribution and my contribution are equally essential in ensuring the quality of every piece that we make.

Can you tell us about your process for creating your EP?

Paolo: Nung start pa lang na nakapasok kami as finalist sa Philpop (When we became finalists for Philpop), somehow we really decided that this could go somewhere kaya the EP really was in our sights but what we didn’t expect was we would pull off everything before 2016 ends. Yung process niya, it really involved maliban sa amin (our process involved a lot of people aside from the two of us), a lot of people really pushing us to finish it and release it like this. We’re grateful to Ms. Dina Remulacio, OPM, to Sindikato our management, and to all our family and friends. 

Miguel: The EP started with the songs, all the other people involved came after the songs. We write songs with the guitar-piano, or guitar-guitar and vocals, full song na yun. Arrangement kasi after na yan ng process (Arrangement comes after). Hindi namin sinadya yung process na siya yung nagsi-simula, ako yung nagtatapos ng songs sa EP na ‘to kasi etong songs na ‘to, eto yung nasulat namin simula nung nagsimula kami (We didn’t intend the process to be like this, where he starts the songs and I finish them, because the songs for this EP are the ones we wrote from back when we were beginning). Our process was developed throughout writing our songs. 

Now that you’ve worked with the greats like Cooky Chua, Bayang Barrios, and Johnoy Danao, who are your other dream collaborators?

Paolo: Ebe. Also Johnoy and Bullet. We want to record something with them. It’s exciting, I think 2017’s gonna be great.

Miguel: Kung papansinin mo lahat ng ka-collaborate namin medyo comfortable sa genre namin na folk (If you would notice, all our collaborators are comfortable with our genre, which is folk). It would be interesting to collaborate with people who aren’t from the same genre – for example CRWN, or even pop stars like Sarah Geronimo. Me, personally ang isa talaga na nag-inspire sa akin na ituloy ang music is Cynthia Alexander. In fact, nung nag-concert siya dito pumila ako nun para magpa-picture, ganun ako ka-fanboy. Sana, someday. Pero alam ko maraming nakapila sa kanya eh, tignan natin. (Personally, one of the people who really inspired me to pursue music is Cynthia Alexander. In fact, when she had a concert here I lined up for a picture, that’s how big of a fan I am. Hopefully, someday. But I know she has a lot of possible collaborators on her list.)

Some people say that your songs make Kundiman accessible to the younger market. Was this something you intended with your music?

Miguel: Not really. I think it was a product of being and accepting that we need to be genuine. Gusto namin ng folk, pero gusto rin namin ng ibang (We like folk, but we also like other) genres: alternative rock, some forms of pop and being true to songwriting is including all those influences. So we love folk, but we didn’t forget our other likes. Mahilig kami sa Paramore noon (We liked Paramore then), Urbandub, Franco. It’s really just being genuine, hindi naman namin sinadya na “ah, magsusulat tayo ng folk pop.” It’s more like, “sulat tayo ng kanta, kung ano lumabas, yun na yun.” (We didn’t intend it to be like, "ah we’ll write folk pop." It’s more like, “let’s write a song, and whatever comes out, that’s it.”)

What can we look forward to for Ben&Ben in the future?

Paolo: Maybe an album next year and if not all, most of the songs on our EP we plan on making singles with their own music videos. And we plan on getting in front of various audiences, getting our music out to more audiences. 

Miguel: More collaborations, definitely. Hopefully an album late next year.

Ben & Ben’s self-title EP is now available online here. Visit Ben&Ben on Facebook for more information.

17 January 2017

A Discussion With. Toti Dalmacion about his Passion for Music and Records

From one musical pursuit to another, Terno Recordings founder Toti Dalmacion shared with us his long history of involvement in the local music scene – from being one of the pioneers of the house and rave culture way back in the 90’s, to running a record store and a lounge for jazz music in the early 2000’s, and to establishing one of the most distinguished independent record labels in the country today.

What started out as an intense love for collecting records and British music when he was young turned to a full-pledged passion, life mission, and calling. In this discussion with Toti Dalmacion, he talked not only about the record labels or bands that shaped his preference, but more importantly his vision for the local music scene. 

As a man who has been in the industry for more than 20 years, we also found out how it has evolved through his point of view. Lastly, we learned that all his involvements are ways to ultimately lead to his goal – to provide alternative music options to Filipinos and to further elevate the standards of local music. 

All these and more we discovered when we sat down with him one night surrounded by his rich record collection in his recently-opened and well-curated record store, ThisIsPop!, tucked in the busy neighborhood of Legaspi Village in Makati.

Interview by Tricia Quintero & Photography by Charico Cruz

First, can you tell us something about yourself?

My name is Toti Dalmacion. I’m known to some for my record collection. I also run my small independent record label called Terno Recordings, which is the home of bands like Up Dharma Down, Yolanda Moon, and more. 

I’m married, and I have two kids. One of them is nine-years old, and the other one is fourteen. I recently revived my old record store from the nineties, which was called Groove Nation then, but now called ThisIsPop! Pretty much everything I do is connected to music except for one business of ours which is the Cuban sandwich shop called Pepi Cubano over in Legazpi Village, which was named after my son.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in music? 

I didn’t really choose it. It’s inevitable given that I come from a family of musicians. My uncles are Rene and Dennis Garcia of Hotdog, a 70’s band who are still active to this day. Music has always been around me. Because of this, it’s certain that I would go towards that direction. 

It’s also because it’s connected to my record collection, which I started at an early age. Collecting records is something I know like the back of my hand. It just comes naturally to me. 

So the idea of starting my own independent record label was kind of evident from the very start. It was due to my favorite record labels who inspired me and continue to inspire me until today.

What are those record labels, musicians, and bands that inspired you?

They are small British record labels like El Records, which is my favorite record label. There’s also Postcard, Fast Product, Factory, Cherry Red, Creation, and Rough Trade. 

I’m really more into British bands and music. My most favorite band is XTC. There’s also David Sylvian from the band called Japan, Paul Weller from The Jam and Style Council, and The Blue Nile. Those are the bands that I really looked up to.

For the modern era, I like the Junior Boys, Destroyer, Simian Ghost, and Marcus Starling.

Since the convenience of the Internet was not yet accessible before, how did you come across all these record labels?

Admittedly when I was young, I wasn’t aware of these record labels. I was more into the mainstream music, and I was also very trendy or “nakikisabay sa uso” when it comes to music preference. That’s why I got into so many mainstream bands and artists, from AOR (album-oriented rock) to jazz, but by 1978 I started seeing punk and new wave from magazines like Rolling Stones, Cream, NME, and whatever I can get my hands on. I was fascinated with what I saw because it was not the usual classic rock. It was new, subversive, and strange. The names were exciting like The Clash, The Jam, and XTC.

So I found ways to discover as much as I can through relatives who might be coming home from abroad. I also have an aunt who lives in England, so she would send me records. Eventually, it solidified my preference as far as music is concerned so I pinpointed what I really liked which is punk, post-punk, new wave, and indie. 

Not a lot of people know, but Groove Nation was one of your earliest music pursuits. Can you tell us more about it?

I used to live in the US, but at some point, my folks wanted to go back here. And the only thing that would make me go back was to do something that was connected to music. I really had fun collecting records so I always leaned towards that. 

Back then, I also DJ-ed when the raves were starting, and house and techno were rising. I heavily went to the parties and managed to play for a bit before going back here.

So when I got back here, I thought the next best thing for me to do was to open up a record store together with some friends and partners. It didn’t really work out, though, because I wasn’t much of a businessman back then.

But I would like to believe it made an impact to people back then because I don’t think there was such a record store at that time, because there in Groove Nation you can order records that you probably wouldn’t get anywhere locally.

After a few years of the store, I was able to share my discovery of the raves back in Los Angeles through it. Groove Nation became more than just a store but also a promoter for the early raves in Manila. The name of the club that I had back then was called Consortium.

So from Groove Nation, how did you go about establishing Terno Recordings?

Groove Nation wasn’t really managed well. It was really more for me to get records for cheap because I get them wholesale. It only lasted two or three years because the rent was raised so we had to find a new place, but that didn’t happen. 

Aside from that, we also ventured into the rave thing that went on for some time as well, but come 1999 everyone jumped on the bandwagon. All of these multinational corporations joining the whole rave parties, and I got disenchanted with it. So we (Groove Nation) folded.

We also opened a bar back then called Lava Lounge, and again it introduced Filipinos to lounge, exotica, or kitsch music. It went on for maybe two years, and then it folded as well.

So the next thing I did was bring in foreign bands that I liked and I thought that would work. I started with Lotus Eaters, which is something people my age here would know because of the new wave era back then. And then there was China Crisis and D-Sound. I thought my direction was headed that way, but that also did not really last that long. 

But that gave me the idea to finally start my record label because I initially wanted to get tracks from everywhere around the world. For example, if I find an indie band in Japan or Malaysia that I like, I would make a compilation of it, and it would be something I would release.

Sometime ago this friend of mine recommended me this particular band, and it was Orange and Lemons who I wasn’t interested in then because that time they were just doing new wave covers. But it turns out they have an all-original recording, so I figured that this could be my first release and I could make it work. It wasn’t super great, but it would do and I could skew it to make it more indie rather than new wave. So that was my first release. 

I also used to write for a supplement where Lourd de Veyra was my editor. I found out that his band Radioactive Sago Project has a new album that no one would want to release so I helped them release that, and so on until I discovered Up Dharma Down, Sleepwalk Circus, Maude, and all these other (Terno) bands.

With all the years you spent in the industry and all the projects you pursued and continue to do, what have been your guiding principles in pursuing, creating, and producing music?

There’s no deep principle to it, but as far as Terno (Recordings) is concerned, I don’t want to put out just your average-sounding Filipino music. I don’t want it to sound too much of a Filipino staple formula. I don’t want another Eraserheads or many Eraserheads. Eraserheads is Eraserheads – that’s their time and that’s good, but to redo it is not really interesting for me. And it has been the case for most of the young local bands in the past, but the good thing is it has improved.

It has to be very interesting. The music, the band, or the artist that would attract me should be something or someone that is adventurous. Even if it’s not too experimental and even if it’s just a basic pop band, there has to be some level of quality. You have to raise the standards above the usual pop-rock band here. 

I’m not putting them down; Filipinos are very good musicians, and we have lots of good writers, but there are some that limit themselves to a certain formula that appeals to most, and they should push it further in order for the Filipinos to appreciate more than what they are used to. 

It’s no different from the movies because if they are not exposed to it, then how will they learn? It’s the same thing with the ear, if you’re just going to push them with the usual all the time, then that’s it.

You mentioned that you want to raise the standards or quality of local music, how do you see yourself doing that?

The label is an example. In Terno, we just continue to do what we do by putting out material that I think is not just the usual or at least it improves on something. 

But it’s not all experimental in Terno. We have Giniling Festival, which is almost crass, but I see the intelligence aside from the humor in their music so I put it out. There’s Maude, a pop-rock band, but if you compare it side by side with another local pop-rock band, you will see there’s a level of slightly higher standards in terms of songwriting, music, composition, and arrangement. Like I said, put out music that’s not based on formula.

Coming from this, what do you think should Filipino artists and bands do more to achieve this?

I want them to really open their minds to not just the new music but the old as well. Go back, research, listen to more variety and not just stick to one genre. 

If you’re a metal guy, don’t just listen to metal all the time. Listen to jazz, indie, and others. It makes you more well-rounded, and it opens up your mind as opposed to being close-minded and sticking to just one genre. 

There are certain genres that we like, but be open when you hear something else. Don’t shut your ears.

Having been immersed in the music industry for quite some time now, how do you think has it changed over the years?

It has improved. There are so many acts right now, which is good. It’s good that the young ones are channeling their energies into something creative or positive, but I would want more quality and really exciting material because we just really need to push it more.

What is your long-term vision for the Philippine music industry, and how would you like to see it in the coming years?

I just want decent support, because we probably don’t realize it but we have a lot of great talents that can also be exported in order for people outside to know that there is something good going on. It would be difficult to compete outside without any support. 

But at the very least if there were some financial support for you to be able to tour, maybe slowly but surely you can find a niche somewhere there because I’m sure one or two Japanese people will probably like you and will multiply – if you are able to fly and play in the first place.

From Groove Nation to Terno Recordings to now ThisIsPop! – What made you keep going in pursuing music?

It’s the only thing that I know to do. I didn’t go to college in the first place. I don’t have a degree. 

So it always comes naturally for me to do what I do, which happens to be always connected to music. It’s the most cliché thing you can say, but that’s really my passion. The fact that I am able to provide for my family doing what I love most is something else. I owe that to my parents who never questioned my interests since the beginning. 

I’m lucky in a way because it really seems to be my destiny. It’s always connected to music.

Can you share to us more about ThisIsPop! – What is the concept behind this store and what made you decide to reopen a record store?

I’ve always wanted to reopen because “napabayaan siya” and we all got busy with other things that the store (Groove Nation) just closed. I’ve always wanted to because it helps me with my vice, which is collecting. Not only that but in the past five or eight years, the vinyl resurgence has exploded locally. I like to think that I can provide another option for people who are looking for records that are not the usual. The store is literally your alternative to what’s out there.

Coming from this, when you say alternative, how do you define it?

Alternative, the word itself, is a late 80’s word to describe acts that are not mainstream, but are not really too underground. It’s halfway. But I use it in a way to just describe something alternative similar meaning to an option. 

What I focus on is new wave, punk, post-punk, and indie – specifically indie pop which was also big in the mid 80’s in England. But the store is beyond just that as far as area of expertise is concerned. I can also get you more experimental, avant-garde, or soundtracks. 

I really find that there is no other record store like that here. It’s really giving you that other option, a variety. I don’t think people realize the potential of having a store like this, which is common in other countries. If you go to Tokyo or UK, there are probably 50 or 60 stores like this that cater to different people.

Can you give us your short definition of ‘alternative' music options?

In very simple terms, it’s really something that you don’t hear on the radio or what 20 of your friends know, which is kind of strange because in the internet age, you would think people would go and discover new music on their own. You have Spotify and iTunes, and they have all of these fancy features where they will recommend you music based on your interests. What I used to do manually, they already have a program for that so they can already make recommendations. But still, sadly, a lot of people still rely only on what the radio plays or what they are exposed to. 

Lastly, what is one thing that you want Filipino music enthusiasts to know?

Go out of their comfort zones and make an effort to check out different kinds of music.

16 January 2017

Purveyr Magazine Issue 2 Launch in Photos by Tristan Tamayo

Last Saturday, we launched Purveyr Magazine Issue 2 with Kiko Escora's SURFACE TINT Exhibit. Here are a few photos taken by Tristan Tamayo to see what happened at Suez and Zapote that night. Full video recap will be published soon as well. We would like to thank all those who dropped by and checked out the magazine. It will be available at our stockists' stores late January, for now you can grab a copy at our online shop

Copyright © 2012-2016 Purveyr, All Rights Reserved.
Follow us on Instagram